Eta extradition case thrown out

18 November

A Belfast judge has thrown out attempts to have a Basque man extradited to face terrorism charges in Spain.

Arturo Villanueva Arteaga was being sought over claims he belonged to a youth group allegedly linked to Eta.

Belfast Recorder Judge Tom Burgess ruled a European Arrest Warrant issued against the 33-year-old was invalid.

He said there was lack of specific details about attendance at meetings, interviews or other evidence that Mr Arteaga was in the Jarrai group.

Although the warrant claimed the wanted man carried out violent and coercive actions from 1994 to 2000, Judge Burgess held there was no reference to dates, locations or targets of any alleged attacks which would allow anyone to link them to him.

“I accept that the time period of the activities of Jarrai are properly set out and that it would be open to the court to decide that the scale of their activity – running into over 6,000 incidents – may be sufficient to allow the requested person to have sufficient particularity as to the activities of the group,” he said.

“But that is not the point on which my decision is made. It is the question of particularity as to his membership of that group which is missing.”

Lawyers for the Spanish authorities have seven days to appeal the ruling.

Mr Arteaga has been living in Northern Ireland for six years and runs a tourism business.

He claimed the ruling showed up flaws in how Spain deals with this type of case.

“The way the Spanish judiciary and Spanish authorities deal with these sort of political cases has been proven (to be) not the right way, and they breach any kind of principles,” he said outside the court.

“Not just myself, but many different lawyers and international bodies, year after year, have been calling attention to the Spanish authorities to improve on matters of human rights and judicial rights for any legal cases relating to the Basque conflict.”

He said he had always worked “politically, peacefully and publicly in defence of Basque youth rights and in defence of Basque national rights”.

The Recorder is also considering a Spanish attempt to extradite convicted Basque terrorist Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos.

The 54-year-old is wanted over claims he glorified terrorism, which carries a two-year jail sentence.

Mr Chaos has already served a jail sentence for his role in up to 25 murders.

The case was heard last week and the judge is to give his decision at a later date.

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